DEER LAKE Phan This Kim Phuc has every reason to be filled with bitterness and hate.
But Kim, who became known around the world in 1972 when she was photographed fleeing her burning South Vietnamese village, has found peace and purpose through forgiveness.
In the famous photograph, Kim is seen fleeing her village after a U.S. Air Force plane dropped napalm incendiary bombs during the height of the Vietnam war; her clothes and much of her skin have been burned off by the fireball that engulfed her village.
The photographer who captured the picture, which helped turn the tide of public opinion against the American involvement in the war, rushed Kim to a South Vietnamese hospital. Against all odds, she survived, despite suffering third degree burns on more than half her body.
Her life was forever changed that day, and she was left with agonizing pain, brutal scarring and a heart full of hate.
Her resentment grew when the communist government of Vietnam decided to make her a poster girl for the atrocities of the war. After years of suffering under Communist repression, she and her husband Toan defected to Canada on a stopover at Gander airport in 1982 from a flight bound to Havana from Moscow â€” where the newlyweds had been granted a short honeymoon by the communist regime.
Sheâ€™s returned to Newfoundland after 15 years to tell her story around the province.
Kim credits the teachings of the Christian gospel with her salvation and her ability to let go of the anger and resentment, which she said poisoned her heart.
â€œI learned that forgiveness is far more powerful than any weapon of war,â€ Kim told an enraptured audience at the Deer Lake Motel Thursday.
â€œIf the little girl in that picture can do it, then you can do it too.
â€œI knew that I had been saved that day because I had a higher purpose in life,â€ said. â€œHaving known suffering and agony, I now know the value of reaching out to help others.
â€œHaving known war, I now know the value of peace. Having lived with pain, I know the value of love. Having lost everything, I now know the value of cherishing everything I have thatâ€™s important and having known hatred, I now know the value and the power of faith and forgiveness.â€